MIA Facts Site

If You Suspect Someone of Being A Phony POW


Phony POWs?  What is this all about?  Believe it or not, there are individuals out there who claim to have been prisoners of war in Vietnam who were not.   Phony POWs.  And, they show up all over the place.  When I was in the POW-MIA office, we would receive telephone calls from family members, representatives of veterans' groups, reporters, and other people asking for details on the exploits of a former POW.   Often, they needed this information because the man was about to be honored by some group.  One of my favorites was a guy in Connecticutt for whom the town was about to erect a monument -- a local reporter contacted us to confirm the guy's story -- he was a phony. 

I receive a lot of e-mail messages from people who want to know if an individual is a phony POW.  Normally, the person sending the e-mail has checked one of the carious databases available and has not located the name of the person making the claim.  I recommend a cautious approach.  There may have been an omission in the database used, there may have been a mix-up in the spelling of a name, or something else may have caused a problem.  And, some folks -- especially phonies -- may not like being exposed and could become violent.  This article provides some suggestions as to how to proceed if you suspect a phony.

First, get a copy of the official POW-MIA list

The Defense Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), maintains the official list of Americans and selected foreign nationals who were at one time or still are unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.  Go to the DPMO web site and you can download the current list.  It is available in Adobe Acrobat .pdf format and takes several minutes to download. 
The DPMO web site is here:    http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/

This link takes you to the official list of POW's.  This list includes every American who was missing or captured during the Vietnam War, including those who were captured and released, captured and escaped, whose remains have been returned, and who remain missing.  This is the official list:  http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/pmsea/pmsea_all_p_name.pdf

Second, contact the experts


The Defense POW and Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) web page is at: http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/
There you will find the Department of Defense lists of all POWs during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.  Anyone who wishes to
contact DPMO to confirm that a person is not listed in the PMSEA should contact the DPMO Personnel Affairs Officer, Mr. Larry Greer, at 703-602-2102 extension 169, or write to: 

ATTN:  Public Affairs
Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office
2400 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC  20301-2400.

DPMO will respond with a letter confirming or denying that the individual in question is/is not a POW.  This letter is important because it provides you with official confirmation that the individual is a phony.

Contact the real POWs

Go to this website:  http://www.nampows.org/   This is the home page of the NAM-POW's -- these men are all genuine returned POW's from Vietnam -- they take a dim view of phonies who claim to have been POW's. 

On their website you will find several e-mail addresses -- look for the address for Captain John "Mike" McGrath, USN (Ret) : <mmcgrath62@adelphia.net>.    Mike is the past President of NAM-POWs and now serves as their historian.  He was a POW for 5 years and 9 months. 

Send an e-mail to Mike and ask him if the person you have encountered is a real POW.  Mike will reply quickly.

If you try to expose the phony, be diplomatic

Let's assume now that you have a copy of the DPMO list, a letter from DPMO, and a message from the NAM-POW's.  If you want to confront the individual, that's your choice.  If the individual is making his claims to an organization -- for example, a local veteran's group chapter -- you would be wise to bring his false claims to the attention of the chapter officers and let them deal with it.   Either way, the following is a suggested process and suggested wording.

Say or write something like this

The Defense Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), maintains the official list of Americans and selected foreign nationals who were at one time or still are unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.  The name ________ is not on the official list.

The official list of Americans who were POWs and missing in Southeast Asia is complete and accurate.  The accuracy of this list has been challenged from time to time and, in every case, the official list has been proven to be accurate and complete.

Then, stand-by for his response.  Do not be surprised if he claims that he was on a "secret assignment," belonged to "a secret unit," or some other spooky claim.  Not true.  The DPMO list includes everyone who was on secret assignments, everyone who was in cover assignments, and includes CIA employees.  No one is omitted from the list because of a sensitive assignment.

If you find a phony in a newspaper, magazine, TV, or radio article

If you see a newspaper or magazine article -- see an item on TV -- or hear a radio report about a person claiming to be a returned POW from Vietnam, and if something just doesn't sound right -- first -- get the facts.  What is his name?  What is he claiming?

Then -- check him out.  Check out his name on the DPMO list.  If you wish, contact DPMO by letter and wait until you get a response from them.

After you have your facts together, contact the reporter who wrote the article -- contact the reporter by e-mail so you have a record of what you said and CC: the reporter's managing editor.

The Schantag's and their list of phonies   

Chuck and Mary Schantag maintain a website with a big section dedicated to exposing phonies.  Here is a link to their "Phonies and Wannabes" section:


Note that the section is divided into two section:  (1) Phony POW's, and, (2) Phonies with other claims (SEALS, Special Forces, Medal of Honor, etc.).  Also note that the section is divided alphabetically -- check here to see if the person you have encountered has already been exposed as a phony.

The Schantag's do a good job of checking up on reported phonies -- they use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain individual's military records and use those records to confirm/deny claims of POW status.

Contact me

If all else fails send me an e-mail -- I'll do what I can to help you expose the phonies.